The Mighty Logo

What Our Grieving Family Needs From Loved Ones This Holiday Season

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

The imminent holiday season has amplified my loss. Christmas carols that once symbolized holiday cheer now sound like nails on a chalkboard. The thought of writing holiday cards now seem like an exhausting task. This year, rather than searching for the perfect comfy blanket for my dad as he watches TV, we ordered a him a grave blanket. Nothing feels right.

My holiday cheer is quickly fading into holiday fear. I am not the same person I was last holiday season. My heart is heavy as I stare at my father’s empty chair and remember what was. I am already finding myself saying no, no, no rather than ho, ho, ho.

Grieving my dad is a colossal emotional storm. Since my dad died in January, there have been highs, lows and valleys. To simply say, “I miss my Dad” is a massive understatement. I did not just lose a father; I lost my best friend, my hero, the person I went to for everything. Not a day goes by that I do not miss him and wish I could hear his voice one more time, hug him one more time or tell him I love him just one more time.

Family holiday gathering at home with person dressed as Santa

Christmas Eve 1983, Dad dressed as Santa

I consider myself fortunate to have spent such an abundant amount of time by my father’s side. I enjoyed his company and valued his advice. Since I was a little girl, my dad would tell me, “You’re my best friend.” So much that when I went for a reading this past September, the first thing the medium said was, “Your dad is telling me you are his best friend.” My dad spent the final week of his life in a hospital next door to my office. Every single morning before work, sometimes as early as 6:30 a.m., I would sneak into my father’s hospital room. Many times I would just stand there and count his breaths as tears rolled down my cheeks.

During one of my final visits, I desperately wanted to crawl into bed next to him and hold on tight. I needed to hug my dad, but there were just so many tubes with no beginning or end. So I held my breath, pushed the tubes aside and tried to squeeze next to my dad. Within seconds my father was awake, machines were hissing at us and I’m not quite sure if he was amused or annoyed. Let’s be realistic, who wants to be abruptly woken up by their grown daughter practically pushing them out of an already uncomfortable hospital bed? Despite all that, he smiled and whispered, “Lisa, honey, what are you doing, please stop before you hurt yourself.” In the middle of beeping machines and endless tubes, we smiled, giggled and then cried. Between tears and the unbearable pain of my heart shattering, I mumbled, “Dad, can I please lay with you?” And what do you think he said? He smiled and said, “Please no, you’re too big, get a chair.”

Father and adult daughter standing in living room on Christmas

Christmas 2015, Lisa and Dad

Together we laughed, and I quickly grabbed a chair and held onto my father’s hand as I cried endless tears. I didn’t want to let go, I didn’t want to forget the powerful, comforting grip my dad had as he guided me throughout my life. I cried harder than I ever cried that morning. Well, I cried until my dad told me to stop getting his hand and sheets wet with my tears. And then I giggled again. That was my dad. Even during a gut-wrenching, heartbreaking moment, he managed to put a smile on my face. He was and always will be my light in the darkness. He was not just my father; he was my best friend.

I will never stop missing my dad.

I am eternally grateful for the people who continue to support me throughout this grief journey. Sometimes words help, and sometimes words are not needed. Sometimes there is a power in silence, in just being there.

Friends… this holiday season, more than ever, please come and sit with our family. Please continue to be there for us, to witness the pain and hold our hands as we navigate our ebb and flow of grief. Sometimes just being there is greatest gift you can give as we grieve a person of significance.

Originally published: November 17, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home